4 Reasons Why God Can Never be Reckless

A new worship song called “Reckless Love” is gaining tremendous popularity in the modern church community.  I’ve decided to write this article as a sort of “yellow-flag”, to encourage worshipers and church leaders alike to consider all of the theological realities at play in this song before deciding to include it in a Sunday morning set list.

Credit Where It’s Due

This song is incredibly well written.  The first time I heard it I was deeply moved by the way it poetically carries us through the gospel message.  I had it on constant repeat for several days, and still find myself humming lines under my breath.  There is a powerful message here; it’s deeply aware of our own undeserving and the sheer weight of God’s grace in light of that.

My concern is not with the message of the song or the way it describes our salvation, but with that last little phrase, “oh the…reckless love of God“.  Can God really be reckless?  In addressing concerns similar to my own, the author of the song wrote this:

… When I use the phrase, “the reckless love of God”, I’m not saying that God Himself is reckless.  I am, however, saying that the way He loves, is in many regards, quite so.  What I mean is this: He is utterly unconcerned with the consequences of His actions with regards to His own safety, comfort, and well-being.  His love isn’t crafty or slick.  It’s not cunning or shrewd. In fact, all things considered, it’s quite childlike, and might I even suggest, sometimes downright ridiculous.  His love bankrupted heaven for you.  His love doesn’t consider Himself first.  His love isn’t selfish or self-serving.  He doesn’t wonder what He’ll gain or lose by putting Himself out there.  He simply gives Himself away on the off-chance that one of us might look back at Him and offer ourselves in return…  —Cory Asbury

My hope here is simply to open a dialogue focused on Biblical truth, and point out some things I believe about God that may be slightly different from who this song suggests He is.

Breaking the Metaphor

The themes of this song tie directly, it seems, to the parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15:1-7).  In the chorus, God’s love is extolled as being “reckless” in the way it pursues the lost sheep (or in the perspective of the song, the way it pursues us).  To paraphrase, the love of God pursues the lost person even when they don’t deserve to be rescued.  This, along with the idea of leaving the 99 other sheep, leads us to sing that God’s love is reckless.

While there may be a valid argument in calling the story’s shepherd reckless for leaving his 99 sheep unattended, the same cannot be said for God (and I think that describing God and describing God’s love are one in the same).  Here are four reasons why God can never be reckless:

1. God’s Power is not Limited

To say that God loves recklessly suggests that His love takes no consideration of consequences or is generally irresponsible.  Now, if a competent shepherd left his 99 sheep unattended for the sake of one lost sheep, you might describe him this way.  There is very little economic sense in risking everything for the sake of one, and in this case the shepherd could rightly be described as reckless.

However, if God were the shepherd, the same challenge wouldn’t exist.  God isn’t limited to specific times or spaces, such that He would be forced to choose between saving 1 or preserving the 99.  The sovereignty of God means that He could intimately pursue the lost sheep without losing track of the rest.  To suggest that He would have to choose represents a starkly limited perspective of God’s power.

God can never be reckless because His power knows no limit.  There can’t be a scenario in which God’s attention is split.  He’s fully aware of and at work in all things. (Isaiah 55:10-11; Lamentations 3:37-42; Psalm 147:1-11; Matthew 28:16-19; Ephesians 4:4-7)

2. God’s Control is Intimate

When we say that God is in control, we’re not just talking about some supernatural being who lives in the clouds and came down to earth one time a few thousand years ago.  The God described in the Bible is present, active, and intimately involved in our daily lives (Hebrews 1:1-2:18).

To suggest that God’s pursuit of us is reckless presumes that we’re not exactly where God intends us to be, or that He doesn’t already know where we are.  The Bible is abundantly clear (Proverbs 16:1-33) that, from beginning to end, God has full authority over our lives.  This doesn’t diminish our own free will (Galatians 5:13; John 7:17), but testifies that God is gloriously and fully in control.

God can never be reckless because there is nothing that happens outside of His will.  There’s no chance that things won’t go the way God intends them.  (Isaiah 46:9-10)

3. God Doesn’t Take Risks

When we say God’s love is reckless, we suggest that His love required risk; that, in choosing to love us, God knew and accepted potential consequences.  This belief hinges on the idea that God is glorious because He saved us.  More on that here.

The Bible, however, tells us that God is glorious simply because He is God (Psalm 19:1-14).  If this is true, there can’t really be risk involved in God’s choice to save us.  There was no option for failure when God came down to save the world.

God can never be reckless because He will never be at risk.  In the end, nothing can steal His glory, especially not failure.  (Romans 11:33-36)

4. Salvation is for His Glory and Our Good

When we describe God’s love as reckless, we’re inevitably saying that God is more concerned with us than with Himself.  This is, however, not how the Bible describes God’s motivations (Ephesians 1:3-6; Isaiah 43:6-7).

God tells us in His Word that our salvation was for His glory and our good, not one without the other.  We don’t worship God because He chose to save us, we worship Him for who He is.  If our worship is rooted in the recklessness with which God saved us, we care far more about our own worth than His– and we should be wary of anything that moves us to think in this way.

God can never be reckless because He is infinitely concerned and invested in the consequences of His actions, namely His glory.  (2 Corinthians 4:13-15)

The Bigger Picture

Every word we use to talk about God is important, especially when we sing them together in worship.  When we describe God’s love as reckless, we make Him much smaller than He actually is–and this is an unwise way to describe the King of Kings.  The idea of reckless love sounds good, but falls flat when compared to the God of the Bible.

As a worship leader, I will not lead this song in my church.  I believe the word “reckless” is too far from the Biblical character of God, and leads us to see Him as weak or limited.  God’s love is beautiful not because it is reckless but because it is gracious, steadfast, and eternal.

What do you think about the word choice in the song?  Is it something that should concern us, or just another facet of His mysterious character?  Does the Bible describe God in this way?  Let me know what you think in the comments section below!

7 Comments

  1. Hey Joshua, thanks for writing this. I really appreciate the thought and faithfulness to the bible’s teaching about the nature, character and work of God. I am with you, the reckless part has tripped me up over and over. I think another way I would look at it is saying reckless could potentially lead our people to a false understanding of who scripture tells us who God is. Lyrics are so important in that we are putting words on the lips of God’s people and if they aren’t true and right (to the best of our abilities) of who God is, that’s serious and downright scary. I need to read through the lyrics more but if that is the only place in the song of concern but the rest is solid and a beautiful depiction of all that Jesus has done for us in the gospel. Then why not change reckless to something more appropriate like “faithful” or something similar? And then use it as a teaching point when you introduce the song to the congregation?

    Thanks again for caring about your congregation and their theology more than the poetic artistry of a song. We need more of you! Keep fighting the good fight.

    God bless,

    Caleb

    1. Hi Caleb,

      Thanks for your thoughts. Changing the lyric is a good idea, I know a few friends who have done that. Personally, I’m not a big fan of changing song lyrics, whatever the reason may be. I’d favor finding a different song with similar themes over altering someone else’s work. As a songwriter, I wouldn’t want people messing with the lyrics of my songs, so I try to avoid doing that to other people’s work. Nothing wrong with it, that’s just my personal conviction.

  2. Joshua,

    While I appreciate your commentary concerning this word “reckless”, I can’t help but feel that too many people are applying a common definition to the word. For example, Merriam-Webster defines it as: marked by lack of proper caution: careless of consequences. In looking at both of these definitions, one would naturally concur that each are negative. However, if you look at the second definition “careless of consequences” and break this down, then it becomes not a negative, but, rather a positive. Allow me to explain.

    If you break down the word “careless” (vocabulary.com), you will see that the root meaning of “care” is “grief”. Therefore, “careless” would really be “without grief”.

    In short, looking at the term “reckless” in this way, gives us a refined definition of “without grief of consequences”.

    I know that you will likely provide a rebuttal that the individual hearing this song will apply the more commonly used definition of “reckless”. However, how many words do we commonly use today that are incorrect? As an example, look at the word “compel” as it relates to Acts 26:11. In this verse, Paul admits he “compelled” believers to blaspheme Jesus Christ. To us, it sounds like he convinced them and they gave in. However, the Greek “anagkazo” is not so strong. It means he “threatened, begged, and pushed” them to blaspheme.

    My point is that too many times we get hung up on a word because of the definition that we apply to it. While I do agree that there could have been a word used in the song that would have been clearer, the word itself is technically not wrong when you look at all of the possible definitions.

    Have a blessed day.

    Cliff

    1. Hi Cliff, thanks for the comment! I think I’d agree with you that the definition of reckless is ambiguous at best. For this article, I was simply responding to the songwriter’s exposition of the word in this context, not so much the word itself–but you’re right, I think the majority of people will apply the less accurate, negative definition to the word when they hear the song. At that point, the debate for me becomes whether or not the song is worth all the confusion and potential misunderstanding, especially when I think about the hundreds of people I influence by choosing the songs for a Sunday morning service. Personally, even the potential of 10 people misunderstanding or having a skewed view of God because of a song I chose makes it an easy decision. We just won’t sing the song at our church.

      Thanks again for the insight!

  3. As the worship leader in my church, I take very seriously the choices of songs that we use for corporate worship. It isn’t my place to tell people what they should believe, but rather to seek out songs wherein the lyrics that are clearly in line with what scripture teaches. I agree that Reckless Love is a beautifully crafted song that paints a vivid word picture about God and His overwhelming, boundless love for us. It does exactly what I want the songs that we sing in worship to do. It sticks in your head and you find yourself singing it thru the week. But I’ve always struggled with the recklessness ascribed to the love of God, and thus by association the character of God. I too toyed with the idea of changing the word to faithful. But in doing so, every person that listens to the song anywhere but in worship would be hearing the original version all over again. I’ve simply chosen to exclude it from my working list of songs. I could be wrong but I’d rather err on the side of caution and be more vigilant when it comes to song selection.

    David

  4. Thanks for this thoughtful article! There are so many OTHER great songs out there that don’t require any mental gymnastics to be performed. If there is a chance that the nuanced meaning of reckless is missed for the obvious common meaning, why take that chance when there are plenty of great alternatives? Let’s not be unduly swayed by Christian radio charts and Justin Bieber. 🙂

  5. You should really take the song for what it is. God is continuously pursuing our hearts and He loves us. Period. No offense but, get a grip and don’t think so hard about it.

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